THE FIRST PICTURE WE HAVE OF GOD after man sinned is that of Him walking in the garden in the cool of the day, calling unto Adam, "Where art thou?" Gen. 3:9. The picture is both beautiful and significant. Man has sinned and disobeyed the Lord, but God does not forsake him. He is looking for Adam. He is calling, "Where art thou?" These are the first recorded words of God to man after the fall.
It is not without significance that we are thus introduced to God. He is looking for and calling to Adam, seeking a sinner who is hiding from Him. It is a picture similar to that of the father in the parable, who day after day watches for the form of his prodigal son, and runs to meet him while he is yet "a great way off." Luke 15:20. It is a picture similar to that of the shepherd who "goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray," and "rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray." Matt.18:12,13.
Adam did not fully understand what he had done or the results of his disobedience. God had told him that sin meant death, that "in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Gen.2:17. But Adam had never seen death, and he did not comprehend what it involved. It was to impress upon his mind the nature of sin that God clothed Adam and Eve in the skins of animals that had been sacrificed. Adam, looking at death for the first time, must have been profoundly impressed with the sinfulness of sin. There the lamb lies still, blood oozing out. Will it never live again? --Will it never again eat or walk or play? Death suddenly takes on a new and deeper meaning for Adam. He begins to understand that unless the Lamb dies for him, he will be dead like the animal lying at his feet, without future, without hope, without God. Ever after, the skin in which he was clothed reminded him of his sin, but also, and more, of salvation from sin.
The picture of God making garments for His children about to be driven from their home, reveals the love of God for His own, and His tender consideration for them, even though they have sinned. As a mother wraps warm, protecting garments about the little ones before sending them out into the bitter wind, so God lovingly clothes His two children before sending them forth. If He must send them away from Him, they are to bear with them the token of His love. They must have some evidence with them that God still cares for them. It is not His intention to leave them to struggle alone. He must drive them out of the Garden of Eden, but He still loves them. He provides for them.
Because of their sin, God had to exclude Adam and Eve from the home He had prepared for them. It must have been with great sorrow of heart that the two left the place where they had first met, which held such blessed memories for them. But it must have been with immeasurably greater sorrow that God commanded them to leave. He had created them. He loved them. He had planned for them a future. But they had disobeyed Him. They had chosen another master. They had eaten of the forbidden fruit. "And now," said God, "lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: ...He drove out the man." Gen. 3:22-24.
God did not leave Adam in a condition of despair. He not only promised that the Lamb "slain from the foundation of the world" should die for him, thus providing objective salvation, but He also promised to help him resist sin by giving him capacity for hatred of it. "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed," God said. Gen. 3:15. An interpretation of this text, without doing violence to it, would be: "I will put hatred for evil into your heart." This hatred is vital to our salvation. Humanly considered, as long as love of sin is in the heart, no man is safe. He may resist evil, but if there is in his heart a love for it and a hankering after it, he is not on safe ground. Of Christ it is said, "Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity." Heb. 1:9. It is important to learn to hate evil. The first promise in the Bible is a promise of hatred for sin. Only as the iniquity of sin becomes real to us, only as we learn to hate evil, are we safe. Christ not merely loved righteousness; He hated iniquity. This hatred is fundamental in Christianity. And God has promised to put this hatred for sin into our hearts.
In the promises to Adam and in God's treatment of him, the gospel is summed up. God does not leave Adam to himself after he has sinned. He looks for him; He calls to him. He provides a Savior for Adam, symbolised by the sacrificial lamb. He promises Adam to help him so to hate sin that he will by the grace of God abstain from it. If Adam will only cooperate with God, all will be well. Provision is made for a return to the estate from which he has fallen. He need not be conquered by sin. By God's help he can overcome it.
This is brought out forcibly in the story of Cain and Abel. Cain is wroth; his countenance is fallen. He has murder in his heart, and is ready to kill Abel. God warns him that "sin coucheth at the door; ...but do thou rule over it." Gen. 4:7 RSV. This was a merciful warning to Cain, and a statement of hope that he need not be overcome by sin. As a wild beast ready to pounce upon its victim, sin couches at the door. In the words of the New Testament, Satan goes about "as a roaring lion." But Cain need not be overcome. "Do thou rule over it" are God's words. This is more than a statement; it is a promise. Man need not be overcome. There is hope and help in God. Sin is not to have dominion over us. We are to rule over it.
Originally it was God's intention that man should have free communion with his Maker. This was the plan He attempted to carry out in the Garden of Eden. But sin thwarted the original design of God. Man sinned, and God sent him forth into the earth. Henceforth sorrow would be his lot.
But God conceived a plan whereby He might be reunited with His people. If they had to leave the home prepared for them, why should not God go forth with them? If they could not live in Paradise, where they could enjoy open communion with Him, why should not God live with them? And so in the fullness of time, God sent word to His people: "Make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." Ex. 25:8. Wonderful love! God cannot bear to be separated from His own! His love devises a plan whereby He may live among them. He goes with them on their journeys to and fro in the wilderness, leading them into the Promised Land. God is with His people again. True, there is a separating wall now. God dwells in the sanctuary, and man cannot approach Him directly. But God is as near as sin will permit. He is "among" His people.
The New Testament says of Christ, "They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." Matt. 1:23. The Christian ideal is fellowship with God, oneness with Him, no separation. "Enoch walked with God." Gen. 5:24. Moses talked with Him face to face. Ex. 33:11. But Israel was not ready for such an experience. They needed to be taught lessons of reverence and holiness. They needed to learn that without holiness no man can see God. Heb. 12:14. It was to teach them this that God asked them to make Him a sanctuary that He might dwell among them.
Before God asked them to build Him a sanctuary, however, He proclaimed to them the ten commandments. Ex. 20. He gave them His law that they might know what was required of them. They stood before the mount that burned with fire. They heard the thunders and saw the lightning; and as the Lord began speaking, "the whole mount quaked greatly" and the people trembled. Ex. 19:16-18. The manifestation was so impressive, and "so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake," and the people "entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more." Heb. 12:21,19. The people, however, could but see and acknowledge the justice of the requirements of the Lord, and both before and after the proclamation of the law answered: "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do, and be obedient." (See Ex. 19:8; 24:3,7.)
It must have been with but little realisation of their own inability to do what they had promised, that they essayed so tremendous an undertaking. From past experience they might have known that without divine aid they could not keep the law. Yet they promised to do so, though it was not many days before they were dancing around the golden calf. The law forbade worshipping idols, and they had promised to keep the law; yet here they were worshipping one of their old idols. In their worship of the golden calf, they gave a demonstration of their inability or unwillingness to do that which they had agreed to do. They had broken the law they had promised to keep, and now it condemned them. It left them in a hopeless and discouraged position.
God had a purpose in permitting this. He wanted Israel to know that in and of themselves there was no possible hope of their ever keeping the law of God. Yet these requirements were necessary for holiness, and without holiness no man can see God. This brought them face to face with the hopelessness of their own condition. The law which was given them for life, only brought them condemnation and death. Without God, they were without hope.
God did not leave them in this condition. Even as in the Garden of Eden the slain lamb prefigured Christ, so now through sacrifices and the ministration of blood God taught them that He had provided a way of escape. Abraham understood this when the ram caught in the thicket was accepted in the place of his son. He had doubtless not fully grasped the significance of his own answer when Isaac inquired of him, "Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Gen. 22:7. To this Abraham had answered: "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb." Verse 8. When the knife was raised, God said, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him." Verse 12. As Abraham looked about him, he saw a ram caught in a thicket, "and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son." Verse 13. Of this Christ says: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad." John 8:56. In the ram caught in the thicket, which died instead of his son, Abraham saw Christ. He rejoiced and was glad.
The lesson which Abraham had learned, God was now about to teach Israel. Through the slain lamb; through the bullock, the ram, the he-goat, the turtle doves, the pigeons; through the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar of burnt offering, upon the altar of incense, toward the veil, or on the ark; through the teaching and mediation of the priesthood, Israel was to learn how to approach God. They were not to be left in hopelessness as they faced the condemnation of God's holy law. There was a way of escape. The Lamb of God would die for them. Through faith in His blood they might enter into communion with God. Through the mediation of the priest they might vicariously enter the sanctuary of God, and might in the person of the high priest even appear in the very audience chamber of the Most High. To the faithful in Israel this prefigured the time when God's people might with boldness enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. Heb. 10:19. All this God wanted to teach Israel through the sacrificial system. To them it was the way of salvation. It gave them hope and courage. Though the law of God, the ten commandments, condemned them because of their sins, the fact that the Lamb of God was to die for them gave them hope. The sacrificial system constituted the gospel for Israel. It pointed the way clearly to communion and fellowship with God.
There are those among professed Christians who do not see much of importance or value in the God-ordained temple services; yet it is true that the gospel plan of salvation as revealed in the New Testament is made much clearer by an understanding of the Old Testament. In fact, it may confidently be said that he who understands the Levitical system of the Old Testament, can much better understand and appreciate the New Testament. The one foreshadows the other and is a type of it.
The first lesson God wanted to teach Israel through the sacrificial system was that sin means death. Again and again this lesson was impressed upon their hearts. Every morning and evening throughout the year a lamb was offered for the nation. Day after day the people brought their sin offerings, their burnt or thank offerings, to the temple. In each case an animal was slain and the blood sprinkled in the appointed place. On every ceremony and on every service the lesson was stamped, Sin means death.
This lesson is needed as much in our time as it was in the days of the Old Testament. Some Christians think too lightly of sin. They think of it as a passing phase of life which mankind will outgrow. Others think of sin as regrettable, but unavoidable. They need the lesson impressed indelibly upon their minds, that sin means death. The New Testament, indeed, says that the wages of sin is death. Rom. 6:23. Yet many fail to see or grasp the importance of this. A more lively conception of sin and death as inseparably connected, would help much in an appreciation and understanding of the gospel.
Another lesson which God wished to impress upon Israel was that forgiveness of sin can be obtained only through confession and the ministration of the blood. This served to impress Israel deeply with the cost of forgiveness. Forgiveness of sin is more than merely overlooking faults. It costs something to forgive; and the cost is a life, even the life of the Lamb of God.
This lesson is important for us also. To some, the death of Christ seems unnecessary. God could, or should, they think, forgive without Calvary. The cross does not seem to them an integral and vital part of the atonement. It would be well for Christians today to contemplate more than they do the cost of their salvation. Forgiveness is not a simple matter. It costs something. Through the ceremonial system God taught Israel that forgiveness can be had only through the shedding of blood. We need that lesson now.
We believe that a study of the Old Testament regulations concerning the manner of approaching God, will pay rich dividends. In the sacrificial system are found the fundamental principles of godliness and holiness which find their complete fulfilment in Christ. Because some have not mastered these fundamental lessons, they are unable and unprepared to go on to the greater things prepared for them of God. The Old Testament is fundamental. He who is thoroughly grounded in it, will be enabled to construct a superstructure that will not fall when the rains descend and the winds blow. He will be "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone." Eph. 2:20.